New Crash Clues: DNA and a Feather

A single feather and some DNA are the latest clues in the investigation into last week's water landing on the Hudson River.

In continuing to piece together what led to the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549, the National Transportation Safety Board today said a feather has been sent to bird identification experts at the Smithsonian.

Samples of organic material found in the right engine, as well as on the plane's wings and fuselage, were also sent to the USDA.

The NTSB said it has examined the right engine of Flight 1549 and found "soft body damage" to the engine, a term that essentially means anything non-metallic and usually refers to birds. In its progress report today, the NTSB said numerous internal components in the right engine were "significantly" damaged.

Interviews with passengers and US Airways personnel are ongoing as teams work to learn more about the emergency water landing into the icy Hudson on Jan. 15. On Jan. 18, crews raised the wreckage from the river and moved the plane to New Jersey for examination.

All 155 people onboard survived in a feat that made the plane's pilots and crew, led by Capt. Chesley Sullenberger and first officer Jeffrey Skiles, national heroes.

Today part of the US Airways plane's left engine, which had sheared off on impact, was also recovered from the river by divers.

Investigators plan to bring up the rest of the engine on Thursday.

"The left engine has been located in about 50 feet of water near the area of the Hudson River where the aircraft ditched," the NTSB reported. "The NTSB is working with federal, state and local agencies to recover the engine, which is expected to occur sometime on Thursday."

The NTSB is also looking into a surge experienced by the right engine during a flight on Jan 13. The board has also been analyzing the plane's black boxes -- the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder -- at its Washington, D.C. lab.

As for passengers' luggage, the NTSB said investigators are in the midst of removing it from the plane to return the bags to the airline, and eventually to passengers.

Crash Details Emerge From Interviews

As work continues, remarkable details have emerged about the flight through interviews with the pilots and flight attendants, who spoke with NTSB officials last weekend.

It was a routine takeoff, according to first officer Jeffrey Skiles, who was at the controls of the Airbus A320 when it lifted off from LaGuardia bound for Charlotte, N.C. at 3:26 p.m. Thursday. The plane was climbing to 3,000 feet and accelerating from about 250 mph when Skiles saw a line of birds off to the right. Capt. Sullenberger was looking down at that moment. When he looked up, "the windscreen was filled with birds," said NTSB spokesperson Kitty Higgins, summarizing Sullenberger's account.

The crew described the animals as big, dark brown birds. Sullenberger said his first instinct was to duck. It was just 90 seconds after takeoff.

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